Not Stir Crazy Yet
It’s been a weird week for me, because far from seeing nobody I’ve seen more people than ever thanks to doctors, tests and hospital visits in the middle of a national shutdown. Suffice it to say, bad timing of the very worst order, but I shall deal with it. We shall speak of this no more because a. boring and b. happens to millions, so move on.
In between shouting at our spouses, kids and grandparents while doing all the laundry and cleaning in between races to empty stores, how will we stay sane at home for weeks or months or even a year and find useful occupations?
Homeworkers always complain that work spills over into private time; you end up powering through weekends and late into nights. Now the reverse seems true; I don’t feel like going anywhere near my desk. It’s not as if it will earn me a monthly wage. I struggle to watch TV; my attention seems to drift away no matter how interesting a series is. Passive viewing is for me enjoyable in a cinema but not at home. It’s a psychological issue I need to deal with. What to do instead?
I’ve downloaded lots of apps; the National Gallery HD App allows you to peruse their painting collection, conveniently arranged by centuries, without crowds. Plus, you can expand them to examine all the fine detail.
I’m using several home training, yoga and stretching apps, which only work if you have a little bit of space, patience and something upon which you can prop your phone upright. Self-hypnosis videos are surprisingly good for de-stressing and relaxation, too.
I still watch movies at home, so the weirder subscription apps are good for a free month’s trial, and I go down the ends of the streaming EPGs for overlooked world cinema like ‘Burning’, ‘The World Is Yours’, ‘Snowpiercer’, ‘So Long, My Son’, ‘The Laws of Thermodynamics’, ‘The Bar’, ‘The Candidate‘ and many others.
We’ve set up several WhatsApp groups with people in other countries to hear what life under lockdown is like where they are, and we’ve connected with (nearly) all our neighbours. We’ve left out the grumpy one nobody likes.
I feel like taking up a pointless, ridiculous hobby like building marble roller coasters (I’m being instructed by friends on Twitter, where you can find me @peculiar). I’m re-thematising my bookcases (something I do even when I’m busy), finally sorting out our insanely messy music library, Marie Kondo-ising the wardrobes, trying to revive the forgotten art of paper sculpture, digitising those shoeboxes full of photos we still own.
London is picturesque at the moment, snowstorms of pink and white cherry blossom everywhere, clear skies, deserted public spaces, room to take the best selfies ever. There are plenty of people out walking, keeping sensible precautions. At times like this we do sensible well.
Paradoxically, social media has suddenly become unappealing. Too much panic, too much fake news, too many ridiculous ideas being spread about the virus (someone in Toronto (pop: 2.8m) sent me a hysterical warning about irresponsible London (pop: 9m) packing out tube trains, enclosing an old pre-shutdown photo as proof).
So I revert to reading, the one occupation that always rewards and never lets you down. Some of my research will find its way into writing, but this time I’ll tackle it on my schedule, nobody else’s. We’re in it for the long term.
I’ll continue to publish as wide a range of stories as possible from early pulp to later, gentler pieces, probably two a week. There will be a few unavoidable gaps in the usual schedule, for which I ask your forgiveness. Comments will be here for all your own self-iso stories, so onward!